The annual Freelancing in America study by the Freelancers Union is the most respected and comprehensive study of the freelance workforce. Its findings provide a snapshot of the size of the freelance workforce, freelancers’ motivations, demographic trends and much more. The Freelancing in America 2017 report has just been published. Here’s a summary of some of its key findings.
The report found that 57.3 million Americans now work freelance. The independent workforce is growing at such a pace that, if the current rate of increase continues, freelancers will make up the majority of the US workforce in just ten years’ time. By 2027, the freelance workforce is projected to account for 86.5 million Americans, versus 83.4 million non-freelancers.
Over the past year, freelancers have increased their contribution to the US economy by a staggering 30%. That equates to an annual economic contribution of $1.4 trillion.
Freelancers are responding to their newfound working status by preparing for the future. 55% of freelancers who took part in the study had reskilled within the last six months. That figure compares to just 30% of the non-freelance workforce. It seems that freelancers are both more willing and more able to respond to market changes and to adjust their skills accordingly. In a world where technology means fast-paced changed, this is a great sign for the independent workforce’s future success.
Attitudes to income within the freelance workforce are interesting. 63% of freelancers believe that having multiple sources of income provides greater financial security than earning income from a single employer. However, freelancers also identify income predictability as the top barrier to independent working. The findings will no doubt resonate with freelancers around the world, from those providing professional translation services to those designing their own T-shirts.
While income predictability was identified as a barrier to freelancing (along with finding work and the lack of benefits), it was balanced by the freedom that the freelance lifestyle entails. In fact, freedom was identified as the top driver in terms of the advantages of freelancing. Freelancers also highlighted the flexibility of their working life and the ability to earn extra money as key drivers.
It should perhaps come as no surprise, then, that freelancing is most common among younger workers. 47% of Millennial workers are freelancers. That’s a higher percentage than any other generation. While some of those Millennials have been pushed into freelancing by a lack of other opportunities, many have plunged in head first, revelling in the freedom and flexibility that freelance working can provide.
Freelancers also flagged up the role of technology as being important to their ability to do what they do. 71% of freelancers increased the amount of work they did online over the past year. This tech-savvy workforce is ensuring that it keeps up to speed with the latest developments and uses them to enhance its earning potential.
The growth of the freelance workforce over recent years has been phenomenal. Global economic factors and a new way of looking at the work/life balance have both had a significant impact on the expansion of freelancing, while technology has been a key enabler. In some sectors (those who provide human translation services, for example), freelancing has been the norm for quite some time.
However, for many industries the rise of freelancer workers is something entirely new. Freelancing is now becoming so ubiquitous that it is no longer simply a niche career choice of those in specialist roles. The shape of the workforce is changing and old traditions are being replaced by new trends. Freelancing is, quite simply, the future.
Are you surprised by the findings of the Freelancing in America 2017 report? Do you agree that freelancing is the future? Share your thoughts via the comments section below.